Although it has a staunch reputation as a symbol of the triumph of the human advancements toward enlightenment and knowledge in a broad scope of subjects, the Nobel prize and its relation to dynamite is an unavoidably intriguing connection. These prizes are given annually to deserving individuals who accomplish great innovations and progress in their fields, yet the origin of this giving is directly connected to dynamite.
But how is the Nobel prize and its relation to dynamite explained? It is through an interesting series of events that would ultimately alter human history, and reflect the true intentions of an ambitious man of many sciences.
Alfred Nobel’s Invention
Alfred Nobel was born October 21, 1833 in Stockholm, Sweden, and soon became a renowned chemist, engineer, and armaments manufacturer, owning the manufacturing company Bofors, which he had completely re-organized from its previous capacity as a steel mill. Throughout his lifetime, Nobel was granted over 350 different patents, was fluent in six languages, and was generally regarded as a scientific luminary.
In 1867, Nobel discovered that when nitroglycerin, which is usually a rather sensitive, volatile high explosive, could be made safer to handle and more stable when suspended in an absorbent, inert substance, such as sawdust in cheap variations, but preferably something like kieselguhr (diatomaceous earth). He successfully demonstrated his invention at a quarry in England, and in an attempt to stray his reputation from always being held within the context of dangerous explosives in the mining business, initially wanted to call it “Nobel’s Safety Powder,” but eventually named it “dynamite” instead.
An Early Obituary
In 1888, Alfred’s brother Ludwig was visiting Cannes and died, resulting in a French newspaper inadvertently publishing Alfred’s obituary instead. In the obit piece, the paper called Afred “the merchant of death,” and cited his invention of dynamite as contributing toward mankind’s increased capacity to kill each other more quickly. Alfred Nobel was greatly disturbed by this apparent reputation, and was so troubled that he sought to establish a new legacy instead.
The Last Will
Using his enormous fortune to establish a foundation, Nobel signed his last will and testament on November 27, 1895, that set aside the bulk of his estate to establish what, even then, were called the Nobel prizes, to be awarded every year without any emphasis on nationality. He died the next year, but had successfully established a globally known, sought-after prize that served to recognize the highest achievements in respective fields.
While it is of no small irony that the inventor of dynamite was the found of the peace prize, perhaps even more notable about the Nobel prize and its relation to dynamite is its exquisite portrait of a man striving to redeem his reputation and truly leave a positive mark on the world.